22 Dec 2008 1:19 pm   //   Filed under: Failure, Media, Technology

Duh: Digital TV switch is confusing

As you may remember, back in April I upgraded my TVs to get digital reception. It was easy for me to figure out (as a technical person who pays attention to the news), but I wondered if the average TV viewer would go to the trouble of requesting the $40 government coupons and buying the converter boxes. People are busy. Who even bothers to think about how their TV works? (I get the feeling most people don’t understand that digital TV, HDTV and LCD television sets are not all the same thing.)

Today the Times reports what should have been obvious: The digital TV switch will be an epic mess. Millions of people will lose their TV signals in February and not understand why. And it’s a problem that will disproportionally affect the poor (who don’t have cable or satellite TV). From my observations, the problem will render useless the TVs in almost every laundromat, gas station, and corner store in my neighborhood. At my apartment (near the top of a hill that faces the Empire State Building, a mere eight miles away) I’ve totally lost channel 13, New York’s PBS station. I’m guessing that millions of households in New York City are about to be cut off from Sesame Street. Meanwhile, the couple of extra digital channels I’ve gained are mostly wasted on weather loops and traffic cameras.

Winners here are telecom companies, which are getting more spectrum, and the federal government, which is selling it to them.